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Roots of Jara’s Innovative Education

By Janelle Dulnuan

· Asia,North America,Technology,Education

Children suffer the consequences of conflicts, pandemics, and natural disasters. Communities could take many years to fully recover. These humanitarian crises leave a large proportion of young people with no access to education.

In April 2015, a 7.8 magnitude earthquake hit Nepal, with its epicenter at Gorkha District. About 9,000 people were killed and thousands more were injured. More than 16,000 public and private schools - about half of the country's total - have been severely damaged. There is, then, an additional challenge that the country faces in the pursuit of reconstruction and recovery- the lack of the citizens’ basic knowledge, vocational training and higher education.

Pabitrya (13) holds a book that she found among the rubble of a destroyed school in one of the severely earthquake-affected districts in Nepal.

© UNICEF/PFPG2015-3197/Panday | https://blogs.unicef.org/blog/nepal-earthquakes-responding-to-the-psychosocial-needs-of-children/

Jara’s Rooted Innovation

Jara provides emergency education to displaced and impoverished communities in regions hit by natural disasters through the Jara Unit - an offline education device that can be used anywhere and anytime, without requiring access to infrastructure. They aim to empower and attain children’s quality education without losing their cultural roots. "Jara," in fact, means "root" in the Nepali language.

Nepali kid eagerly browsing the Jara unit

Photo from Jara

The Jara unit is a portable and durable crank and solar powered device. Children can learn preloaded educational content on Math, Science, and Languages. To make education more rewarding, students earn points that they can cash in to play games for a few minutes.

The device will also serve female students, who are often the least educated members of society as they are urged to prioritize household chores above all else. Jara also helps girls who are forced to skip school due to chauppadi, a practice that involves excluding women from daily social activities while they are menstruating.

Aside from traditional subjects, the Jara unit also contains practical skills like practical knowledge such as water filtration techniques, earthquake safety measures, plumbing system creation using indigenous materials.

The Jara unit

Photo from Jara

The Fruit of Women’s Hard Work

The Jara unit was conceptualized by Soraya Fouladi, an Iranian electrical engineer based in the USA. She tirelessly learned from designing and implementing systems and programs through writing curriculum for K-12 robotics and directing the largest technology-education camp at Stanford. With this hands-on attitude paired with her technical capabilities, Soraya and her team were able to bring the Jara unit to reality.

Jara’s female-led team go from strength to strength. Soraya mentioned that more than half of her team are women. They are a set of talented individuals that became a genuinely collaborative team with shared objectives and mutual trust. They are committed to their vision of people not needing to be fully dependent on foreign aid. They aim for them to be self-reliant instead, while preserving their cultural roots and strengths.

Jara's CEO Soraya Fouladi with a Nepali student during her work in a rural community in Nepal

Photo from Jara

Actively Listening

Team Jara spent part of 2017 in Nepal. The team spent time researching, soliciting, and collecting feedback for them to seek, understand, and improve on what’s working and what isn’t in Nepal’s education system. This became an integral part of their initiative as they created the Jara unit alongside the community.

For the team to make it work, they collaborated with a pool of local volunteers – people who are deeply committed and knowledgeable about community wellbeing.

Soraya (center) with Nepali locals (left side) and Jara Team (right side) during their community visit in Nepal.

Photo from Jara

Looking Forward by Mapping Progress

Team Jara has considerable experience working on product deployment in the social sector. However, they claim that they are always in the learning mode. They have established an advisory network with vast experience in fundraising, pilot testing, product development, and more.

Jara aims to launch 1500 units in the surrounding schools and homes in Gorkha, Nepal. As they plan to mass produce the Jara unit, they want to form additional partnerships and assess expansion possibilities in other communities internationally (or globally) too.

Nepali children are very keen to learn using the Jara unit

Photo from Jara

It’s true that Rome wasn’t built in a day, and similarly, Jara will take years to scale-up, because they recognize good humanitarian development requires designing solutions alongside locals while preserving cultural roots, but the hard work and perseverance will all be worth it. They have their vision and they will build up their enterprise while courageously overcoming each challenge.

You can reach Jara through:

soraya@joinjara.com

Also on their website: www.joinjara.com

And follow their journey on Facebook: www.facebook.com/joinjara

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